The Silver Year: L’Epilogue est Sans Issue

L'Epilogue est Sans Issue

 

 

I watch​​ her. She​​ commands​​ the bar with the stoicism of a field surgeon and the grace of an ice dancer.

“Whadda​​ you​​ want?”​​ She​​ mentally notates each answer with a nod, sawing​​ down the front line of patrons as one bites​​ corn​​ off​​ a​​ cob, mercilessly bypassing​​ any​​ kernels​​ with drink orders​​ unready.​​ Her hands move with​​ deeply​​ satisfying rhythm and​​ automation. In one,​​ a​​ cocktail​​ shaker pumps, in the other, a bottle tips to a​​ wanting​​ line of shot​​ glasses.​​ She​​ chews off three more drink​​ orders​​ in the process, keeping tally of the beers filling under​​ the​​ taps​​ behind her, then with balletic bravado, she cracks​​ the shaker​​ over two​​ glasses,​​ pirouettes to stop​​ the​​ three running​​ taps,​​ and​​ returns with four totals for​​ eleven drinks.

“Sixteen . . . twenty-four-fifty . . . forty-two . . . twenty-one-seventy-five.”

As the​​ front​​ line of​​ patrons procure​​ payment, she​​ tops off the beers,​​ delivers them​​ to the bar, and​​ begins​​ the process​​ all over again with the line​​ behind them.​​ She never stops. The whole night is her ballet, battle,​​ and opera.​​ They say true multitasking is impossible, but Jade​​ has​​ made a perfection of faking it. It’s a shame no one​​ sees her brilliance​​ the way I do—not​​ even she,​​ so I’m documenting it here, hoping for perpetuity.​​ In fact, everyone​​ I’ve​​ documented​​ here is​​ a hope for perpetuity,​​ but​​ especially you.​​ 

I’m sorry. I still find myself talking to you.​​ Even after all this time, an eternity in comparison to our​​ actual​​ time together, I still feel like I just lost you.​​ But as an​​ almost​​ outside observer of​​ my​​ life now, I​​ think I​​ can​​ see​​ why; nothing​​ made time move faster than habit and nothing​​ held​​ it​​ down​​ like novelty, and you,​​ for the best and worst,​​ were the most novel thing to come into my life.​​ You taught me​​ change is always paired with​​ pain, and to​​ fear​​ change because of pain​​ is​​ a​​ waste​​ of​​ time—of life—because​​ change is what makes​​ time​​ and life​​ in the mind’s eye, and​​ novelty,​​ its​​ vaccine​​ against an​​ unjustified fear​​ of it.​​ And from the looks of things lately, it sure seems like we could use a vaccine.​​ 

Speaking of​​ that,​​ the​​ newscasts have been apocalyptic​​ lately. It’s been raining in Southern California for three days and every television screen at the bar is filled with images of the deluge​​ now that the sports games are over. Floods, mudslides, power outages,​​ idiots in cars being swept away at​​ water crossings;​​ I​​ pretend to watch, but my mind is elsewhere.

Fortunately these days I don’t get noticed here too often. Then again, I don’t look much like myself these days either. Over time I guess people have just gotten used to me sitting in this corner by the trivia machine, sipping​​ wine—the last of the spirits I haven’t made enemies with,​​ documenting their sordid romances and tragedies into my notebook. I’ve sort of become one with the old trinkets adorning the walls. Every now and then somebody finds me novel, but for the most part I’m free to be the surveying ghost I always wanted to be.

I think this bar is what I’m going to miss the most​​ when I’m gone.​​ I know that sounds alcoholic, but Perqs has been my​​ only place of novelty​​ during​​ my years of​​ mostly​​ habit—not​​ by​​ choice of course.​​ I​​ also​​ see​​ why​​ it​​ was so special to you;​​ one of two buildings left on Main Street over a hundred years old, forty of which it served as a brothel. You always did like a place with​​ some​​ history.​​ The real value,​​ however,​​ is​​ the​​ people and​​ stories on display every night​​ here, many of​​ whom and​​ which I’ve​​ borrowed for​​ our story.

I only say “our story”​​ now​​ because so much of your story has become mine, and​​ I’m not sure if I’m ready​​ to be alone again​​ yet.​​ I always asked​​ you​​ if you thought I was going crazy, and you always reassured me, “only in the most lucid way.”​​ But​​ now that​​ this last remnant of you​​ is​​ going to be​​ gone, who’s going to be around to substantiate that?​​ You’ve become​​ so​​ fixed​​ in​​ my imagination​​ I’m beginning​​ to question​​ if any of it​​ really​​ happened at all.​​ But I’ve got to move on.​​ I’ve got to​​ leave you in this locket of time,​​ because​​ I no longer​​ have​​ time to hold onto​​ time. Only​​ death can​​ hold onto time forever.

But​​ so can a​​ great story—well, maybe not forever. But longer than I​​ surely​​ can in the limited time I have left.​​ 

So​​ as the love of your life,​​ simply because you had no others​​ and I had no others—we​​ didn’t have the​​ “time”,​​ I’ve now done my due diligence​​ in​​ trying my best to make​​ sure the world​​ remembers​​ Walter Huxley. Because​​ if you weren’t love, you were surely love’s muse.​​ And​​ if there is any practical purpose for love, it’s having someone who can tell your story​​ in case​​ you’re no longer around to—or​​ in my case,​​ finish the ending, the ending I​​ accidently​​ took away from you​​ that fateful early Christmas morning.​​ I never did get to hear that second verse.​​ 

Although we​​ only​​ met​​ a mere few seconds in this​​ existence​​ Mister Huxley,​​ maybe we can really​​ fall in love​​ in another.​​ I guess I’ll find out soon​​ my​​ coup de​​ foudre.

 

Love,​​ 

Amber​​ ;-)

 

 

 

The Silver Year: Chapter 0

Chapter​​ 0

The Fool

 

 

Shiva tried to sleep, but​​ the​​ sound​​ of​​ whips and​​ paddles​​ working​​ Mags’s willing victim on the other side of the wall​​ made it impossible.​​ She​​ turned up​​ the rain track in​​ her headphones and curled into​​ a​​ tiny​​ ball on​​ her​​ tiny bed in her tiny room. Her room was​​ a poorly-converted crawlspace in the back of a walk-in​​ closet.​​ Photos and other relics of her travels covered gaps in the drywall;​​ the​​ rafters​​ laid​​ bare, insulation, partially-exposed, but it was home when she needed it,​​ which​​ after being forced out of her beloved houseboat a month earlier, felt frequent.​​ Every part​​ of​​ her​​ new​​ home​​ besides this room​​ was​​ shared with strangers.

La Lune Rouge​​ served as​​ sort of a​​ halfway house for trafficked​​ girls, providing a safe​​ place​​ for them​​ to​​ make money​​ on their own term’s​​ outside​​ their​​ loverboy’s eyes, either while still under their control or after being freed.​​ Below​​ Mags and Shiva’s top floor​​ “lair​​ suite”​​ were six floors of eighteen rent-free bedrooms, a piano bar, and an underground cabaret lounge where​​ the girls​​ could​​ also express themselves creatively in​​ La Lune Rouge’s​​ nightly, all-night​​ cabaret show,​​ Hell, made up​​ of​​ mostly​​ formerly​​ trafficked persons. ​​ 

Being a Parisian-style cabaret show​​ in Amsterdam​​ below a speakeasy-style piano bar, the​​ Hell​​ show​​ had​​ become​​ wildly popular​​ with​​ the​​ locals,​​ but also their​​ most​​ highly-guarded secret,​​ hence​​ the​​ zero online presence​​ and its unwelcoming locality.​​ And while the police​​ were​​ aware​​ of the​​ questionable activities in the rooms above,​​ the police chief was one of Mags’s best clients​​ and​​ the​​ department​​ just​​ had one of its biggest trafficking​​ busts because of​​ the​​ girls​​ help, so​​ for the most part,​​ they looked the other way.

Shiva​​ turned on​​ a​​ dim light​​ overhead​​ and​​ switched to​​ music. Her​​ mother’s favorite,​​ Il dolce suono,​​ from​​ Lucia di Lammermoor​​ struck like electric equanimity.​​ Tragic operas​​ always​​ made​​ her and​​ her mother​​ happier.

Before the disease,​​ her​​ mother​​ had aspirations​​ of​​ being​​ an opera singer, but​​ like her fleeting interests in poetry, photography, and painting, she​​ never could commit​​ to something.​​ She​​ wasn’t​​ really the commitment type. Neither of​​ Shiva’s​​ parents​​ were​​ being​​ longtime​​ swingers​​ before they were parents. But still,​​ even when her mother’s sickness​​ was​​ at​​ its​​ worst​​ and​​ she was​​ not​​ at all​​ pleasant to be around,​​ Shiva had​​ never seen two people​​ who loved each other more, a love she​​ greatly starved for​​ but​​ simply didn’t have the​​ time​​ to find.​​ Love is not easy​​ when​​ your life is​​ so​​ limited and​​ it​​ means damning​​ someone else to​​ your​​ curse.​​ 

Although her parents never said it, Shiva​​ knew she never​​ would have​​ existed​​ had​​ they​​ known about the disease​​ before conceiving.​​ No parent wants to damn their offspring​​ no less than​​ they​​ want to damn their lover.​​ This​​ was​​ why​​ she​​ had​​ decided​​ long ago​​ art was​​ a​​ better place to put her heart​​ than love​​ and children.​​ There it wouldn’t be damning anyone.​​ That is until she met​​ Mags, or “Queen Kali” as she called herself​​ in those days.​​ Mags​​ too was​​ living with a lurking killer she’d inherited​​ from her mother,​​ spinocerebellar ataxia.

“That’s why​​ it couldn’t have​​ seemed​​ more aligned,” Shiva said to​​ her mother’s​​ tarot deck. “I had just​​ lost​​ luna hunny and my heart was empty, and right when I needed​​ it,​​ right​​ after​​ I​​ ‘passed​​ through the eye of insanity’,​​ the perfect​​ love​​ somehow​​ found me​​ just like you said it would Mom.​​ But​​ now​​ I know divine doesn’t mean perfect, because divine love visited me last night and it was far from​​ it. But​​ I’ve lost it​​ now​​ and​​ I need your help finding​​ it again.​​ You are, after all, the one who brought me it, right?​​ How else can​​ I​​ explain it?”

Shiva​​ always​​ spoke to her mom​​ as if she were praying and always had the Ace of Cups in her hands when she did. But today her Ace of Cups was missing, so it was the full tarot deck instead.

Her​​ mother had​​ bequeathed​​ her​​ the​​ Ace of Cups​​ along with the deck in her​​ suicide note,​​ left with her​​ will and​​ written long before she lost her mind,​​ body, and life​​ completely.​​ She wrote it​​ during​​ her​​ pregnancy after​​ discovering​​ her unborn daughter​​ had a fifty percent chance​​ of inheriting​​ her curse, and​​ it was​​ written in the event​​ if​​ she​​ had.

When I’m not there,​​ let this card be a reminder I still am, the note said​​ about the Ace of Cups.​​ It​​ represents​​ the love and curse​​ that connects us,​​ a​​ connection​​ that goes much further than​​ just mother and daughter,​​ and​​ one that​​ reaches far​​ beyond​​ Earth.​​ Let it also be a reminder​​ of the​​ chalice in you​​ that​​ deserves to be filled.​​ You may be cursed, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have gifts​​ for​​ this world and don’t​​ deserve​​ to know​​ divine​​ love​​ before you leave it. And I promise you will​​ know​​ it​​ before we see each other again.​​ I’m​​ just​​ leaving you for now​​ before I​​ become something other than your mother. Thats​​ what’s​​ so horrible about our curse; it hollows you out while you’re still living and not only robs you of your​​ mind​​ and​​ body,​​ but​​ replaces​​ you​​ with a crippled demon.​​ I want to​​ be​​ remembered​​ as your mother, not a demon.

None of this will make sense to you right now​​ and you’re probably very confused and hurt, but​​ divine love always looks like certain madness in the beginning.​​ Peace isn’t sewn without passing through the eye of insanity first.​​ However,​​ after you do,​​ divine love​​ will​​ find you,​​ and​​ that’s​​ also​​ when you’ll​​ know​​ the divine love I​​ always​​ had for you.​​ 

Shiva​​ took the deck out of the case and began shuffling, then placed two cards on top of each other in a cross formation, a simple problem-answer formation. First was her problem. She flipped it:​​ the Death card​​ again. She flipped the next one.​​ It was impossible.​​ The Ace of Cups.​​ Where had​​ it come from​​ if it wasn’t with Walter?

The closet door​​ then​​ opened and blue light from the bedroom​​ oozed​​ in.​​ Shiva​​ put the Ace of Cups card in her nightgown pocket, then put the rest of the cards away. She then crawled out​​ of​​ her crawlspace.​​ Fate​​ was waiting.

 

 

 

 

The Silver Year: Chapter 7

Chapter​​ 7

A Boy at Heart

 

 

APRIL​​ 2012

 

“What stays with you most from that day?”​​ she asked​​ sitting on the sofa across from​​ him, pen​​ circling her open​​ notebook.

“It wasn’t seeing him dead,”​​ Walter​​ said.​​ “In fact,​​ he looked quite peaceful.” Her pen began​​ scratching​​ at the pace of his speech across the page. “He​​ even had​​ this​​ smile on his face​​ . . . It was when they put him in a body bag.​​ That faceless bundle of flesh and bone will haunt me forever.​​ It’s amazing the​​ guilt you suddenly feel for being alive when face-to-face with someone who no longer has that privilege.”

“Why would you feel guilt?”​​ she asked.

“I wasn’t always the nicest to​​ Brian.”

“You two didn’t get along?”

“Hardly ever.”

“Why was that?”

“I suppose egos got in the way. We just didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things.”

“What were your last moments with him​​ like?”

“Um…” Walter’s fingers unthinkingly began to fidget in an effort to fight his natural urge to always tell the truth​​ even when he didn’t have to.​​ “I... I... I...​​ Do I have to tell you?”

Her​​ bucktooth grin flashed beneath her​​ chipmunk-like cheeks,​​ making​​ her button nose​​ crinkle​​ adorably​​ between her doting, big,​​ brown eyes.​​ “You don’t have to say anything you don’t want to,”​​ she​​ said. “Remember you reached out to me.​​ This is your story​​ Walter,​​ not Quinn Quark’s, Cirkus’s, or anyone else’s.​​ No​​ one knows about this interview but us.”

Maybe it was​​ the​​ disarming​​ English accent, but​​ somehow she’d​​ become his closest counselor and was pulling things out of him that had long been sewn up, when only an hour earlier, she’d been nothing but a stranger—well not exactly. Francis Jones was​​ Rolling Stone’s foremost​​ reporter, and there was a reason why.

However,”​​ Francis​​ said,​​ I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask. A lot of people want to know what happened that night.”

“And so​​ would I,” Walter said.​​ “But​​ I was pretty​​ much blacked out​​ by the time​​ ‘it’​​ happened, so yeah...​​ Um, do​​ you mind?”​​ he​​ said eyeing a bottle of Jameson​​ and an​​ ice bucket​​ filled with mixers​​ on the coffee table.

“Go ahead,” she said.​​ “That’s why it’s there.” She flashed​​ him​​ another​​ grin.

He poured himself a drink,​​ then leaned back in​​ his​​ armchair.​​ The​​ tranquil​​ glow of​​ Francis’s​​ living room​​ fireplace​​ was​​ dangerously​​ homey,​​ a feeling he hadn’t felt in​​ some time.​​ Although​​ Cirkus​​ had given him some money to get by​​ until the show—what they were​​ promoting as​​ “Quinn Quark’s last and final show”,​​ it was nowhere near enough to get him out of Grandma’s. Also,​​ he was paying for it in other ways.​​ 

Unbeknownst to​​ Walter,​​ his​​ emotional​​ soundcheck​​ performance of “See The Sky About To Rain”​​ had been filmed and recorded. With​​ no single or music video to use​​ for​​ promotion,​​ the​​ label​​ instead​​ pushed​​ the video—one tight shot of​​ his​​ genital-swelling​​ face rolling through the emotions of the song​​ until climaxing in​​ a money shot of tears.​​ Being​​ such an emotional performance​​ and​​ recorded​​ on​​ the day of​​ Perfect Crime’s​​ last​​ performance​​ with Squids,​​ the video​​ quickly​​ became​​ a​​ viral​​ hit​​ amongst​​ rock and indie circles,​​ then​​ spread just​​ as quickly​​ into the general public’s circles, but​​ especially their genitals.​​ The swelling was all anyone​​ could​​ talk about.

After the song became a surprise top ten hit,​​ Quinn Quark​​ was then hailed as the​​ return of the​​ rock star, even though​​ Quinn Quark was supposed to​​ be​​ dead and​​ the​​ song​​ was far from​​ being​​ rock n’ roll.​​ But America wasn’t really interested in rock n’ roll again, just​​ the idea of having​​ a​​ rock star.​​ Rock stars are like cowboys to Americans;​​ mythologized​​ clichés​​ they loved​​ to resurrect​​ over and over again.

Walter set​​ down​​ his drink and cleared his throat.​​ “While it​​ does​​ feel​​ good​​ to finally talk about​​ Squids’s death,”​​ he​​ said,​​ “I’m not sure this is the right​​ place. I’m sorry. I hope you understand.”

“Of course,”​​ Francis​​ said, however, there was​​ a​​ pinch​​ of exasperation on​​ her​​ face.​​ “So...”​​ she​​ turned​​ a​​ page​​ in​​ her notebook, “...how’s​​ rehearsal​​ going​​ for next month’s show?​​ How’s it been​​ working​​ with​​ Jason?”

“Rehearsals are going great actually. It just feels great to be playing with a band again. I didn’t realize how much I missed it.​​ It’s like not having sex.​​ And Jason, oh man, it’s​​ like a whole​​ new​​ sex​​ now that​​ we​​ have a bassist who can​​ actually​​ play—shit.​​ I​​ shouldn’t have said that—I​​ mean,​​ I​​ didn’t mean to say that.”

You’re​​ fine,​​ Francis said​​ surrendering her pen to the air. “I can leave​​ it​​ outI can leave anything out. This isn’t a live interview. Remember, it’s just​​ us​​ here.​​ 

That’s reassuring, Walter thought. He didn’t have to be perfect. He wasn’t​​ onstage with thousands of eyes​​ stalking​​ him, just two big brown ones; the eyes of​​ a​​ cutesy cartoon forest animal.

“Thanks,”​​ he said. “Um... what I ‘meant’ was, everyone in the band has nothing but the upmost respect for​​ Jason, and it’s inspiring to be playing with someone of his caliber.”

“Does this mean​​ there​​ might be a​​ possibility​​ we’ll​​ see this lineup​​ of Perfect Crime​​ perform again?”​​ Francis​​ asked.

Walter’s​​ face turned sour.​​ No,” he said.​​ Let’s make that perfectly clear.​​ N-O. There will be no Perfect Crime​​ after this show​​ or Quinn Quark.

“But what about your unreleased album,​​ Love Songs in a Minor Crash?”

“I never finished it. And the songs I had​​ written for​​ it, they​​ weren’t​​ right for Perfect Crime.”

“But​​ maybe​​ a solo project?”​​ she asked.​​ 

“Actually, yes,” he said.​​ “I am​​ considering them for​​ a solo project.”​​ 

“Really?”​​ She​​ repositioned​​ herself​​ on the couch, pen ready to transcribe.​​ “What kind of sound is this new project?”​​ 

“Silence,”​​ he answered.​​ Francis’s​​ eyes hung on​​ him​​ for further explanation, but​​ Walter​​ just smiled.

“I’m sorry,” she said,​​ “but​​ I’m not understanding.”​​ 

“It’s a​​ novel,”​​ he said.

“A​​ novel?” She looked to be reshuffling notes in her head.​​ “Why?”

“Personal reasons. But also,​​ I like the privacy of it.​​ With a novel, my​​ physical image​​ doesn’t have to be packaged alongside my art.​​ I​​ also​​ don’t have​​ to relive​​ the emotions​​ of​​ my art night after night​​ on tour.​​ I can just write it, then move onto something else.”

“That’s​​ surprising to hear from someone who seemingly​​ enjoyed​​ performing​​ very much,”​​ Francis​​ said. “What’s​​ this novel​​ about?”​​ 

“Death,​​ life,​​ love, existence—all the typical stuff,”​​ Walter​​ fibbed.​​ So far​​ his​​ novel​​ was about nothing, because​​ other than​​ his​​ lacquered piece of shit​​ that he tore to bits, he’d​​ still​​ written nothing.

“Care to expound​​ a​​ little more?”​​ Her​​ pen​​ rapped​​ frustratedly​​ against her notebook.

“I guess you could also say it’s​​ a revue​​ of sorts,​​ featuring​​ all​​ the women​​ who have shaped​​ me, good and bad.”

“Past lovers?”

“Some.”

“Can you tell me about​​ some of​​ them? Your love life is something of a mystery to most people.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Francis’s button nose crinkled​​ sharply​​ and her lips pursed into a taut circle.​​ “Okay Mister Huxley,” she said, “well,​​ where do you want to go,​​ because I’m not having​​ much​​ luck driving?”

“Anywhere​​ but​​ my past,”​​ he said.

“Okay,​​ let’s​​ continue with​​ the future​​ then. This novel you’re working on, when can​​ we expect it?”

“Sometime,​​ but you won’t​​ know​​ it.​​ I’m releasing it under​​ a​​ penname.”

“Why​​ is that?”

“Because the​​ book​​ can’t make it on the back​​ of​​ my music career.​​ I couldn’t​​ take myself seriously​​ as a writer​​ if​​ it​​ did.​​ That’s why people can’t know I wrote it.”

“So will anyone ever know​​ the author’s true identity?”

“God, I hope not. All I want is to disappear into​​ obscurity after this​​ farewell​​ show.”​​ 

Francis sighed​​ sympathetically​​ as​​ her demeanor shifted gears.​​ “That’s​​ a shame​​ you want to disappear from the world​​ Walter,” she said,​​ “because the world really​​ seems​​ to​​ like you.​​ A​​ lot of great things​​ have been said about you, you know?​​ Some​​ have​​ even called​​ you​​ genius.”

“Genius?”​​ he​​ said chuckling.​​ “I’m a​​ failed​​ songwriter. The one hit song I have is a cover.

“Oh, but I’m not talking about your music career,” she said.​​ “I agree your accomplishments in music have been blown out of proportion.”

Francis then​​ set down​​ her notebook and pen on the coffee table, then​​ picked up a​​ thick​​ binder from the floor​​ Walter​​ hadn’t noticed and​​ opened​​ it​​ across her lap.​​ “Actually,”​​ she​​ said. “I’m​​ talking about your work in physics.”

“Physics?”​​ Walter​​ said.​​ “I was a C-average physics student.”

“Yes, that’s what you tell everyone...” she said thumbing through the binder’s plastic-sheathed pages, “...but​​ there’s also​​ much​​ more to the story.​​ I hope you don’t mind​​ revisiting​​ your past again—just​​ briefly,​​ but​​ I​​ spoke​​ to​​ one of​​ your​​ professors​​ at UCLA,​​ an Alan Schechter,​​ and​​ he​​ said before​​ your junior and senior years,​​ you were the​​ most promising physics student the department had seen in some time.​​ He​​ also​​ showed me your papers. And while he admitted there was a lot wrong with them, he​​ also said…” She read from​​ the binder: “…‘They’re the type of creative​​ genius​​ of someone who could revolutionize physics.’ And​​ that​​ your choice to apply that creative genius to rock music was​​ ‘an unfortunate​​ result of being young and​​ disproportioned​​ in​​ blood flow between​​ brain and penis.’”

Walter laughed. “Sounds like Schechter,” he said.​​ “But​​ what does​​ he​​ know?​​ He was a great teacher, but a failed theorist himself.​​ A whole life wasted chasing dead-end theories. I’m sorry, but I didn’t​​ want to end up like him. He’s gone so crazy now​​ he’s trying to convince naive journalists who haven’t the slightest clue about theoretical physics what’s going to revolutionize it.​​ Probably because they’re the only ones who will take him seriously now.”

“You​​ don’t have to be condescending,”​​ Francis​​ said​​ under her breath.​​ 

“Condescending?” Walter said. “Okay, what’s the uncertainty principle?”​​ She​​ shrugged.​​ “See,​​ naïve journalist who doesn’t​​ know shit​​ about physics.​​ Not condescending,​​ just​​ the truth.”

“But still,​​ you don’t have to be​​ a...”​​ She tried to come up with a​​ polite​​ rebuttal, but went blank.​​ 

A what?” Walter continued​​ his charge.​​ An asshole? Is that what you want to call me? Go ahead,​​ I’ve been called worse. However,​​ the real asshole here​​ is​​ you.​​ This entire interview you’ve been trying​​ to​​ trap me​​ because​​ you​​ thought​​ by putting together some extensive book report on my life you’d​​ know it better than​​ me.​​ And by the way, just because​​ I’m​​ somewhat​​ famous​​ now,​​ that​​ doesn’t mean you have an all-access​​ pass to riffle through my past

“Actually,​​ it​​ does,” she interrupted.​​ “Maybe I don’t know​​ ‘shit about physics’,​​ but​​ I do know​​ shit​​ about media law.”​​ 

“Whatever,” he said.​​ “I’m done.​​ If you think you’re going to prod any more information​​ out of​​ me,​​ you’re nuts.”​​ Walter​​ stood from his chair and walked to​​ the​​ front​​ door.

Seriously?​​ Francis​​ said. “You asked​​ me​​ for this interview.​​ I thought you wanted to introduce​​ the ‘real you’ to the world?​​ But how am I supposed to do that when you won’t tell me anything​​ about you?

“Well,​​ apparently you already​​ know​​ everything,” he said. “What else do you need to know?”

“How about why someone so gifted continually​​ throws away​​ his​​ talents?​​ Songwriter, physicist, and now you tell me writer. You’re so much more than Quinn Quark​​ the one-hit rock star​​ and I​​ just​​ want​​ the world​​ to​​ know.​​ Isn’t that what you want​​ too, for people to know the​​ ‘real you’?”

Walter stood silent, contemplating.​​ “No​​ actually,” he​​ then​​ said.​​ “I’m sorry​​ Francis,​​ but​​ this​​ was​​ a mistake.”​​ He opened her front door​​ and began to leave.

“Walter stop,” she​​ begged​​ as she ran to the front door. “Why?”

“Because​​ the real me is not who you think​​ he​​ is. Wanna know the truth? I have no​​ novel, not a single​​ page. So cross off writer.” He slashed an​​ invisible pen over the air. “And some crackpot ideas I had while smoking too much pot in college doesn’t classify me as a physicist either; in fact, it’s just an​​ insult to the field.​​ So we’ll cross​​ that​​ off too.​​ I guess I’ll give you​​ songwriter, but​​ as​​ of next month I’m officially resigned of that title​​ also. So there it is: I’m​​ an over-hyped,​​ title-less nobody who can’t commit himself to​​ anyone or​​ anything; just a big fucking face for people to​​ talk​​ about, that’s all.​​ You know, sometimes I wish nature hadn’t made me so brilliant if that’s what I really am. It’d sure make things a lot easier. I envy the average man; the person who can float through life blissfully ignorant​​ of the world,​​ because... because​​ fuck the world!”

The front door​​ then​​ struck​​ its frame like a thunderbolt.​​ 

 

Walter​​ tried to​​ walk​​ to his car,​​ but​​ only made it to​​ the​​ curb in front of​​ Francis’s​​ house. Her unanswered​​ questions​​ began to​​ sting at him like tiny ants.

She’s right,” he said​​ sitting, his head tilted to the night sky.​​ But​​ why?​​ . . .​​ Why-why-why-why?​​ Why​​ Walter—or​​ whoever the fuck you are today, why​​ do​​ you​​ always​​ throw away​​ everything good​​ for something uncertain?​​ Physics for rock stardom, rock stardom for writing, Amber for​​ Catherine—what’s next and when will it stop?​​ But​​ please, just stop. I can’t take any​​ more pain.

A​​ cycle​​ then​​ began​​ to formulate.​​ Every​​ time something became too​​ comfortable,​​ he abandoned it​​ for​​ something new and more​​ challenging.​​ He couldn’t stand​​ to be comfortable, to be stable—to be bored.

“But then who am I?”​​ he​​ asked. “What am​​ I? Can I still be​​ or should​​ I​​ be asking these questions at​​ twenty-five? I can’t keep going around like this,​​ flirting with everything life has to offer. I have to stick to something, stick to someone. I have to be an adult . . . But I like new things. I like to dream. I like change.​​ I like being​​ single.​​ Why does it have to stop?​​ Why does life have to revolve around one resolute identity?”​​ 

The dilemma of being twenty-five.​​ Walter​​ had grown into a man, but was still very much a boy​​ at heart.

“Who are you talking to?”​​ Francis​​ asked​​ from​​ her doorway.​​ Walter stirred​​ to​​ his​​ feet​​ in surprise.

“Um…​​ myself,”​​ he replied.

“You realize that’s kind of​​ crazy,​​ right?”

“Guilty as charged,”​​ he said then sat back down.

She​​ scoffed and​​ shook her head.​​ “So what’s your deal?” she​​ said. “Do you really hate being famous?​​ Does it​​ really​​ drive you​​ that​​ crazy that​​ people recognize you​​ sometimes; that you impact their lives?”

“Just because people recognize me doesn’t mean I affect​​ their​​ lives.​​ I recognize Kim Kardashian, but if she​​ never existed​​ I think my world would be no different.”​​ 

But​​ you​​ don’t​​ represent the world​​ Walter.​​ Kim Kardashian may have no impact on you, but she sure​​ does on the rest of the world—and that’s important. If there’s one thing I’ve learned​​ as an​​ actual​​ writer,​​ it’s that​​ you can’t be so consumed in your own world that you​​ forget about​​ the​​ actual​​ one. Kim Kardashian, as unfortunate as it may sound​​ to you, is the real world.

“Since I’ve already tanked my interview...”​​ Francis​​ continued,​​ putting her hands to her hips, “I’m just going to be brutally honest with you​​ now:​​ you​​ need​​ to​​ buck the fuck up and stop being such a whiny bitch.​​ Yeah, you’ve been dealt some​​ bad​​ cards​​ lately, but​​ there’s a lot worse curses that could be placed on​​ you​​ than being intelligent,​​ multi-talented,​​ good-looking,​​ and famous.​​ Also,​​ if​​ you​​ think writer is the answer to freeing you​​ from​​ fame, you’ll be sorely mistaken.​​ If your intention is to have an impact on people, whether it be through a song, a​​ story, or​​ even​​ a​​ theory, you’re​​ also​​ going to have to deal with them—deal with being famous.​​ People​​ don’t connect with ideas​​ insomuch as they​​ connect with​​ other​​ people.”

Her voice then softened as she walked and sat beside him. “And I know at one point you had no problem connecting with other people,” she said,​​ “especially on a stage.​​ You also loved doing interviews. But I can understand why you’re not so trusting of people now and maybe don’t want to do​​ one. You’re still healing and​​ people aren’t making it easy, including me.”

“No...” Walter said​​ quietly. “You were just trying to do your job, the job I asked you to do.”

Thank you for understanding . . . So, are you going to let me finish it, or am I​​ going to​​ have to​​ call the cops​​ and tell them some madman is talking​​ to himself in​​ my front lawn?

The Silver Year: Chapter 6

Chapter​​ 6

Who is Walter Huxley?

 

 

VALENTINE’S DAY/​​ WALTER’S BIRTHDAY 2012

 

Walter turned​​ from Orange​​ onto​​ Main Street​​ and into the Huntington Beach Street Fair​​ which​​ filled​​ Main Street with​​ a colorful,​​ noisy​​ mass of people​​ every Tuesday​​ evening.​​ Flanking​​ the street were​​ two long​​ lines​​ of​​ canopies​​ selling​​ commodities​​ of​​ every​​ kind:​​ food,​​ art, clothes,​​ soaps, flowers. There was a farmers market, petting zoo, mechanical​​ and inflatable​​ rides,​​ and​​ street performers and​​ live music​​ at every intersection.​​ It​​ was also​​ the only​​ time​​ locals​​ came out​​ in as many​​ numbers​​ as​​ tourists. It was​​ a​​ smorgasbord​​ of socialization a lonely person​​ needed on occasion,​​ and​​ Walter​​ was going to miss it dearly.

The label’s advance​​ was​​ at​​ an end, and​​ although they allowed​​ him​​ to stay in the​​ beach​​ house,​​ they​​ stopped paying rent two months earlier.​​ Now with​​ less than​​ two​​ hundred dollars​​ to his name​​ and soon to be living with Grandma again,​​ Walter​​ felt no shame​​ doubling​​ up on​​ all the​​ free samples​​ he​​ could get​​ as he moved through​​ the​​ food​​ vendors​​ and farmers market. By PCH, he was pleasantly full.​​ 

Crossing​​ PCH​​ just​​ before sunset, he​​ walked​​ onto​​ the​​ Huntington Beach Pier,​​ his​​ favorite part of his walk​​ and home to​​ his​​ spot.​​ The​​ pier​​ was the largest in Orange County​​ and​​ buoyed​​ a full-size Ruby’s Diner at the end.​​ With surfers​​ crisscrossing​​ its pillars on​​ near-constant swells, the pier was​​ Surf City’s centerpiece​​ and​​ attracted​​ travelers from​​ all over​​ the world. This​​ daily​​ washing of faces mixed with​​ the​​ fixed​​ tides of Ruby’s waitresses was why​​ he​​ never tired of walking​​ the pier.​​ Every day it was different. And​​ instead of going out into the world, the pier brought the world to​​ Walter.

Reaching​​ the pier’s​​ spear-shaped​​ end,​​ he​​ was​​ happy to​​ find​​ his​​ “spot”, the most seaward-facing tip,​​ vacant.​​ Wedging into it,​​ he​​ imagined​​ himself on​​ a ship​​ bow​​ heading​​ out to sea​​ as waves bowled in beneath. He stayed​​ imagining​​ until the last splinters of​​ the​​ sun​​ were​​ pulled​​ into​​ the horizon.​​ He then turned to people watch.

As they rounded the end of the pier, almost all were​​ nuzzling​​ couples,​​ still​​ drunk on​​ the​​ idealism​​ Valentine’s Day​​ and sunsets​​ seem to​​ bestow​​ on lovers.

Loneliness is such a bitch,​​ Walter​​ thought,​​ but it’s the bitch I love.

It was an apt​​ encapsulation​​ of his creative muse. Without loneliness, creatively, he was​​ dead. Loneliness was​​ his​​ admission inside his head, a reality as real to him as the one outside of it. But​​ as of late,​​ his only pure repository of​​ loneliness was​​ his home.​​ It was why he’d​​ hardly left​​ it​​ the past two months.​​ Outside,​​ he​​ was​​ always​​ vulnerable​​ now​​ to​​ some stranger cauterizing his​​ solitude. However,​​ isolation​​ was​​ costing​​ him his sanity, the very thing solitude was supposed to​​ save. How any artist survived being famous was beyond him, yet​​ his life​​ thus far had been solely dedicated to nothing else. Fame was great when Quinn Quark was perfect. It was a living hell as​​ just​​ Walter Huxley.

​​ Although​​ Walter​​ killed Quinn Quark—arguably​​ after he killed​​ two other people—two months earlier,​​ Quinn​​ was becoming more famous​​ in death​​ than ever.​​ His​​ sharp rise and fall was the stuff of urban legends, and it only fed more​​ interest​​ about the man behind​​ him. It also didn’t help Cirkus wouldn’t confirm any details about​​ Perfect Crime’s​​ breakup, hoping the threat of a lawsuit would change Walter’s mind.

Once​​ the​​ day committed to night,​​ he​​ turned​​ away from the people and​​ back to the ocean.​​ His​​ ship​​ bow​​ was now​​ sailing​​ the cosmos. Black sky​​ sat upon​​ black sea,​​ creating​​ an​​ artifice​​ of​​ twinkling​​ space​​ to​​ wonder​​ and​​ wander​​ about. Lady Stardust—his pet name for the night sky—was the only remedy​​ for a mind​​ as​​ awash in death as his;​​ she transcended​​ it.​​ While​​ nothing​​ compared​​ to her,​​ the same laws that governed​​ her​​ governed​​ him, and the same matter that made​​ her​​ made​​ him, and knowing​​ this​​ calmed him​​ for the same reason prayer calms​​ someone.​​ ​​ 

“Happy birthday Quarky!” a voice roped​​ Walter​​ back to Earth. He didn’t need to turn to know who it was. There was only one person​​ on Earth​​ who called him Quarky:​​ Lola.​​ 

 

“I thought I’d find you in your spot,”​​ she​​ said, snuggling into his side.​​ “For someone who supposedly hates​​ routine, you sure are predictable at times.”​​ In the faint glow from the Ruby’s Diner​​ behind them, Walter noticed some new leopard spots painted into​​ the buzzed sides of her​​ mohawk.

“Everyone needs​​ the support of​​ some​​ familiarity​​ in life,”​​ he said, his face​​ not happy or unhappy to see her.​​ Their meetings​​ were always​​ double-edged now.

“Well,​​ most people find that with family and friends,” she said,​​ “not walks and thinking spots.”

“I like my solitude.​​ It’s important​​ to my creative process.”

“Oh really? I never knew. So glad we got you that beach house. Does this mean we’re finally getting that album you promised back in December​​ then?”

He ignored​​ her​​ and​​ craned​​ his head​​ back​​ up​​ at​​ Lady Stardust.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s your birthday, and if you don’t want to talk about it​​ today, that’s​​ okay. I know it’s also your last day at the house. I’m sorry it had to land​​ on​​ your birthday​​ . . .​​ But​​ still...” she pulled his​​ chin and​​ eyes back to​​ Earth,​​ “…I would like to know what’s going on?​​ I’m worried about you.​​ You​​ haven’t returned​​ any​​ of my​​ calls or texts​​ in​​ the last​​ week, and I haven’t​​ actually​​ seen you​​ in​​ over a month.​​ Look at this beard you’ve grown.”​​ She​​ stroked​​ his face.​​ “I​​ just​​ needed​​ to​​ make sure you​​ were​​ at least​​ living.”

Well...”​​ Walter said, his hands gesturing​​ over himself,​​ je pense,​​ donc je suis.​​ Thanks for checking​​ in, but I​​ was enjoying being alone, especially since that’s becoming less and less of a privilege lately.

“Quinn Quark!” A passerby shouted.​​ 

Fuck,” Walter​​ said​​ under his breath.​​ Lola’s​​ flamboyant​​ fin​​ must’ve attracted eyes that otherwise​​ would’ve​​ missed him.​​ 

It was an awkward intrusion as​​ a​​ teenage boy forced his way between them.​​ “Holy shit!​​ You’re Quinn Quark,” he said.​​ “I’m sorry to bother you, but​​ do you mind if I get a picture​​ with you?”

“Fine,”​​ Lola​​ said​​ to Walter,​​ discreetly​​ wiping her eyes.​​ “I’ll go.”​​ But now​​ he​​ wanted​​ nothing more than for​​ her to stay.​​ Fame​​ was​​ much​​ easier to handle​​ when she was​​ by his side.​​ But out of pride,​​ he​​ let her​​ leave.

The​​ fan​​ asked​​ for a picture again.

“Um... sure,​​ of course,” Walter said​​ to him,​​ his eyes still on​​ Lola.​​ He​​ then​​ held a​​ smile​​ while​​ the fan’s girlfriend fumbled with her phone​​ for thirty seconds before finally taking the picture.

“Is the album​​ still coming out?—What’s it sound like?—Do you have a new bassist?—Perfect Crime’s gonna​​ stay together​​ right?—You gotta keep going​​ man—Your voice was one of a kind…”​​ the​​ fan​​ sawed on​​ and on.

“Um…​​ I’m​​ really​​ sorry,” Walter said, watching Lola grow smaller and smaller,​​ “but​​ I’ve got to go.”​​ He​​ didn’t want to be alone​​ on his birthday​​ anymore.

“Lola!”​​ he​​ shouted​​ running after her. She​​ glimpsed​​ back and​​ tried​​ to​​ continue, but​​ couldn’t.

What?” she stung​​ back. “You​​ obviously don’t want to see me.​​ I’m sorry I ever cared.”

“That’s not true,” he said catching up to her, then kept moving. “Come on,​​ let’s walk and talk​​ . . .​​ I am​​ glad to see you, but you know, it’s…”

“Complicated​​ now?​​ Complicated​​ because​​ I​​ represent your enemy?​​ Yeah, it hasn’t been easy for me either​​ Walter.”

“Quinn! Quinn!...” a​​ group​​ of teenage boys and girls accosted​​ them​​ from the front.​​ Even though he​​ had​​ just left the fan,​​ Walter’s​​ paranoia told him the fan​​ must’ve​​ broadcasted his location​​ online​​ after posting their picture together,​​ and​​ now​​ sharks​​ were swimming in from everywhere.​​ The commotion​​ drew​​ in​​ the​​ rest of​​ the​​ pier’s​​ traffic, and soon everyone was​​ halted​​ around​​ him.​​ He​​ cowered​​ to​​ the​​ pier’s​​ railing​​ as​​ the crowds​​ closed in​​ armed with cellphones.

FUCK OFF!” he​​ lashed​​ back.​​ “I’m not​​ fucking​​ Quinn Quark! I’m Walter Huxley—Walter​​ fucking​​ Huxley!​​ Quinn Quark is​​ dead.​​ Normally he could keep it together better than this, but​​ the inside of him was​​ so​​ fractured, it was getting​​ harder all the time.

Lola’s mouth​​ suspended​​ open. She had never seen him reject fans, and especially so brashly.​​ The crowd looked​​ dumbfounded​​ at one another.

“Walter Huxley?” one of the teenage girls said. “What kind of weird name is that?”​​ People said this​​ about his​​ real​​ name​​ a lot.​​ Like him—and like his stage name​​ for that matter,​​ it was a bit odd.​​ 

“No,​​ he’s​​ Quinn Quark,”​​ one of the teenage boys​​ said. “Look, he’s got the bellbottoms and everything. His hair’s shorter,​​ and he’s got a beard, but​​ that’s him​​ . . . Hey Quinn.​​ Is it true?​​ Did​​ you​​ go crazy and​​ kill Squids?”​​ Obviously,​​ this wasn’t a fan, but a heckler, something​​ Walter​​ had a growing number of.​​ 

Do you think if I killed Squids…​​ Do​​ you think if I killed​​ Squids” …I’d still be walking the streets?​​ was what​​ he was trying to say, but couldn’t, because in​​ exactitude​​ he​​ had​​ been​​ a pivotal​​ actor​​ in Squids’s​​ death.

Seized​​ by frustration,​​ he​​ fell into one of his​​ newly​​ infamous​​ “fit-o’-fucks”,​​ uncontrollable, arm-throwing,​​ fuck-laced freak-outs that began shortly after Squids’s​​ death.​​ This was the show everyone came to see​​ Walter​​ perform now.​​ A video of one he had two weeks earlier went viral, and since,​​ his number of tantrums and taunting teenagers had exploded exponentially.

“Ha-ha, there he goes!”​​ the instigating teenager​​ said.​​ Some people scolded the hooligan, but just as many​​ laughed​​ with him​​ and started filming with their phones.​​ 

It was the first​​ fit-o’-fuck​​ Lola had​​ witnessed in​​ person.​​ Sure,​​ she’d seen much worse in private,​​ but​​ to​​ see him​​ boil​​ out of control​​ for​​ cheap​​ entertainment​​ was​​ a​​ heartbreaking​​ revelation​​ of​​ his​​ degraded state.

“What​​ the fuck’s​​ wrong with you?!” she yelled at​​ the​​ crowd,​​ shrouding Walter in her arms.​​ As she took him away, some genuine fans​​ tried to follow,​​ still pleading for pictures,​​ but her ferocious​​ HE SAID​​ FUCK-OFF!”​​ kept​​ them​​ back.​​ 

“You okay?” she asked​​ him.

“Yeah—thanks,”​​ Walter​​ said,​​ still slightly prideful.​​ He​​ pulled up his sweater hood​​ and tightly pulled the draw strings.

“You know you can’t hide​​ behind a new haircut and beard,” she​​ told him. “Your most recognizable attribute is your pants. You’ve got to lose the​​ bellbottoms.”

“Never.​​ The bellbottoms​​ have been​​ a part of me long before Quinn Quark was—since high school.​​ They’re​​ my homage to rock n’ roll’s classical heyday.”

She​​ began laughing.​​ First, you gave rock n’ roll the middle finger by​​ quitting,” she said. “Second,​​ although Quinn Quark may have told every reporter that’s why he wore bellbottoms,​​ in truth,​​ Walter​​ is just​​ insecure​​ about his cankles.​​ I know Walter​​ Huxley​​ and​​ Quinn​​ Quark​​ far too​​ well for you to try and bullshit me.​​ I guess Quinn Quark isn’t dead yet.

Walter had​​ forgotten he confessed that to her one night on tour after they had too much wine.

“Now, do you really want me to stay,” Lola​​ said,​​ “or​​ do you just want to​​ continue​​ to​​ bullshit me?”

“Yes, please stay,” he said​​ deflated. “I’m sorry.”

“I​​ forgive you,” she said, and pulled him​​ into her arms.​​ “But only because​​ it’s your birthday. And oh yeah, here’s your birthday kiss.”​​ She lightly​​ kissed​​ his cheek. “Everyone​​ deserves at least​​ one​​ kiss on their birthday.”

“Yes,​​ but​​ I’m sure​​ you​​ have​​ much​​ more than just one kiss in mind for my birthday.”

Lola laughed again.​​ If​​ you’re​​ thinking​​ birthday sex,​​ ha, but no.”​​ 

“Not birthday sex,” Walter said smiling.​​ “I’m talking about the laundry list​​ of​​ items you’re hoping I will pay courtesy​​ to as soon as you no longer have to pay courtesy​​ to​​ my birthday.​​ I know Lola Roxy and Josepha Hagerman​​ far too well by now to be bullshitted​​ also.”

She​​ cleared her throat. “I do,”​​ she​​ confessed,​​ “but it’s​​ only​​ one​​ item.​​ I’d say we could talk about it tomorrow on the phone, but​​ since​​ you​​ never​​ pick up, I have no option​​ but to disgrace your birthday​​ with it.​​ So... you​​ want it now or later?”

“I knew it,” he said gritting his teeth. “Now.​​ Otherwise I’ll be wondering all night.”

“Fine,” she said, reaching​​ into​​ her​​ purse​​ and​​ pulling​​ out a manila​​ envelope.​​ “Here, you’ve​​ been served.”

“You’re suing me?!”

“I’m sorry, but you left the band and Cirkus no other choice.​​ It’s not like you didn’t see this coming.​​ However, there​​ is​​ another option they’re​​ willing to entertain, and believe me,​​ it’s more than generous on their part.”

“What?”

“They want​​ a​​ farewell​​ show​​ to make a live record.”

Walter​​ laughed.​​ Ha, but no,” he said,​​ and​​ smacked​​ the crosswalk button at PCH.​​ “No​​ way I’m going​​ back.​​ Quinn Quark​​ is​​ dead.

And he can stay dead for all I care,” Lola said, “because​​ I​​ don’t need him. I​​ just​​ need you. I don’t give a shit​​ who you are onstage,​​ Quinn, Axl,​​ Ziggy​​ fucking​​ Stardust.​​ I’m just asking​​ Walter​​ for​​ one showand maybe three-four rehearsals. Is​​ that really​​ something you can’t handle?​​ It’s not like Squids was your best friend​​ like he was to your bandmates. Think of​​ what​​ they’re​​ going through.​​ They need closure and so do you.​​ And if​​ you won’t do it for​​ them,​​ do it for me.​​ You realize how much​​ of​​ a slap in the face​​ this​​ all​​ is​​ to me, right?”

“Why?” Walter said. “Because​​ of​​ our​​ personal​​ relationship?​​ The way I remembered it, there​​ was a strict divide between​​ our personal and professional relationship.”

Lola closed her eyes and swallowed what looked to be a scream.

“Well...” she said​​ once she composed herself again,​​ “...I​​ guess I broke that rule from the beginning​​ then. Because I​​ obviously let my personal relationship with you—even before we started fucking—influence my professional one far too much​​ when I put that record deal together​​ for you.​​ Even when the label—along​​ with​​ your own band—pressured me to convince you to​​ rerecord​​ some​​ songs from​​ the​​ EPs​​ for the album,​​ I​​ told them no, to trust you.​​ But​​ here we are,​​ seven months later,​​ after I​​ also​​ convinced the label to​​ let you​​ stay in​​ the​​ house​​ two months longer than they wanted,​​ and​​ you tell me​​ through​​ a fucking text message​​ a week ago​​ that​​ you​​ not only​​ haven’t finished the record,​​ but​​ you’re​​ quitting music​​ altogether. Then you up and​​ ghost me​​ without any​​ further​​ explanation. If you can’t see why that’s​​ slapping me in the face​​ Walter, how about​​ you come closer and I’ll put it another way?”​​ 

He​​ looked straight ahead​​ and gave no comment​​ as they crossed PCH​​ and rejoined the crowds of the street​​ fair.

I​​ trusted you,” Lola​​ continued, “fought​​ for you,​​ believed in you so​​ goddamn​​ much that​​ I​​ didn’t realize​​ just how​​ much I set myself up to be fucked over​​ by you.​​ But I never fathomed you​​ actually​​ would,​​ because of all things I thought you considered​​ me,​​ a friend would be one of them.​​ But no wonder you​​ complain about​​ having​​ so few​​ real​​ friends​​ if this is how you treat​​ them.”

He remained silent, but instead of looking forward, his head went down.

Lola stopped walking. “Are you really​​ just going to continue to ignore me and say nothing?”​​ she asked.

Walter shrugged. “What do you want me to say?”​​ he​​ replied.​​ “I know, I’m a piece of shit.”

She​​ grunted and stomped​​ her black army boot into​​ the ground. “No,” she said, “you’re just​​ an​​ asshole.​​ Well, if you’re not going to do the show, I guess​​ I​​ have no reason to be here since you think that’s the only reason I came down here.”

“It wasn’t?” he said.

She grunted again. “I’ll see you​​ in court,” she said.​​ I won’t intrude on your birthday with yourself any longer​​ . . .​​ BYE!”​​ She​​ then​​ grafted herself into​​ the​​ passing​​ crowds.

As​​ Walter watched her colorful fin swim away, guilt rose like a slow-motion upper cut.​​ “Lola stop!”​​ he​​ cried, and again chased after her.

“Only if you agree​​ to do the show!” she​​ shouted back,​​ her fin still swimming.​​ 

“That’s not fair! Can’t we talk about it?”​​ 

“Oh,​​ now you want to talk?​​ It’s too late Walter.​​ There’s nothing else to talk about​​ unless you’re doing the show.”

“Fine, I’ll do​​ it,” he​​ ceded.

She stopped​​ and turned​​ around, unable​​ to hold back a grin.

“But I want you to know,”​​ he​​ said​​ as he rejoined​​ her,​​ “I’m​​ not​​ doing it​​ for​​ the​​ band, the label, or​​ because of​​ the​​ lawsuit.​​ I’m doing it for you.​​ You’re right​​ Lola. You have been​​ so much more​​ to me​​ than just a friend, and​​ really, you’re​​ my only friend other than my grandma.​​ I’m​​ so​​ sorry.​​ I​​ love you.​​ And​​ you know not in an ‘I love you’ sort of way, but in a… well, I’m not sure​​ what kind of way, but I do.”

Lola​​ sighed, still grinning. “Our​​ kind of​​ love is​​ kind of​​ hard to pin down,” she said.​​ “Somewhere between​​ friends,​​ enemies,​​ family,​​ fuckbuddies,​​ business​​ partners​​ . . .​​ But​​ I​​ do​​ love you​​ Walter,” she​​ said​​ clasping tight onto him. “No matter how much I sometimes hate you. But also,​​ thank you.​​ I know​​ this isn’t​​ easy​​ for you.”

“Like I said,” he said​​ into her ear as they kept holding,​​ “I’m only doing it for you.”

“And​​ it’s​​ a​​ good thing you are,” she said,​​ “because that​​ envelope is​​ full of​​ mostly blank paper. You can’t serve papers for a case you’re involved in.”

Walter​​ made a long groan.

“You’re turned on, aren’t you?”​​ she​​ said​​ feeling​​ some added bulk pressed against her​​ leg.

He pulled away​​ and​​ nodded.

“You’re​​ a sick freak, you know that?” she said​​ pulling him back in, then bit his ear.​​ “But so am I.​​ I guess that’s why we​​ love each other​​ so much.”​​ 

 

Back at Walter’s place​​ on his living room floor,​​ cuddling​​ atop​​ his​​ crippled camping​​ cot​​ which had collapsed under the​​ heft​​ of​​ their​​ lovemaking,​​ he and Lola​​ passed​​ a whiskey bottle​​ and kisses to each other while​​ Night Moves​​ rolled out​​ softly​​ from the radio.​​ He​​ had​​ missed​​ her more than he thought. Nothing was more healing to a man’s sanity than the soft hold of a woman who knew him well, even if she couldn’t hold him forever.​​ 

“So,​​ what are you​​ going to do now?”​​ Lola​​ asked​​ once the radio went to break.

“Now what?” Walter said.

“Now that you’ve quit music.​​ You must’ve quit it for something.”

“Do we really have to​​ talk about​​ this​​ right​​ now?”

“Sorry,​​ but​​ I can’t get it off my mind.​​ Plus,​​ I​​ think I​​ deserve to know​​ why you’re abandoning the dream I worked so hard to help you​​ reach; the dream​​ you also worked your entire life for.​​ I understand Squids’s death was tragic, especially​​ right​​ after Amber’s, but​​ still,​​ there​​ has to be something else.”

“I​​ just​​ realized rock star is not who I am, okay?​​ Yes, it’s what I thought I wanted to be when I was eleven​​ and what everyone​​ has​​ expected of me​​ since—with​​ the​​ exception of a few college professors, but I didn’t realize being famous would be so...​​ so intrusive​​ on my art.​​ It’s great onstage, but I don’t​​ want​​ onstage following me offstage. I need offstage for​​ life and​​ art.”

“Okay,” Lola said, “but that still doesn’t answer my question. Are you going back to physics?”

“No​​ . . .​​ I’m​​ going​​ to be a writer.”

“A writer? Like a songwriter?”

“No,​​ like an author. I want to write a novel. However,​​ I’m finding it a lot more difficult than I even​​ imagined.”

“A novel​​ Walter?” Lola said shaking her head. “Is this because of Amber?​​ Look,​​ I understand the incredible guilt you feel, but throwing away your dream for hers isn’t going to make​​ it​​ go away.”

“You’re right,” Walter said,​​ “and that’s not why​​ I’m doing it—well maybe a little.​​ Amber always said I should explore my talents in writing more. However, the real​​ reason is​​ I’ve come to realize writing is​​ the only medium​​ that can truly satisfy me​​ as​​ an artist and as a​​ logician. I think that’s why​​ neither physicist or rock star worked out for me. Both only satisfied​​ one aspect of me. But a novel,​​ it​​ can be a​​ platform​​ for​​ both​​ theory and creativity.”

“I​​ don’t know,”​​ she​​ said​​ still shaking her head.​​ “It doesn’t​​ make much sense to me​​ because I’ve never thought of you as a​​ ‘writer’—well, outside of​​ a​​ songwriter.​​ But​​ I suppose there might be some crossover.​​ Have you​​ written anything​​ yet?”

“Just​​ half a page.”

“Want to​​ read​​ it​​ to me?”

“I’m not sure. It’s really rough.​​ I probably won’t even​​ use it​​ for​​ my novel.​​ It’s just​​ an​​ exercise I found online for new writers that’s supposed to stimulate the creative process.​​ You’re supposed to introduce your writing as if it were​​ you, but obviously I’m still trying to figure out who that​​ ‘you’​​ is.”

“Just read it.”

Walter​​ sighed, then​​ got up and went to the kitchen. He​​ pulled a​​ gray​​ spiral notebook​​ out of one of the drawers, then laid back down beside her.

“It’s called,​​ Who is Walter Huxley?” he said. He took a​​ few deep​​ breaths, then began:

“I am Walter Huxley and I am​​ one of the loneliest people on Earth; I am​​ a writer.​​ But there’s something sacred in a writer’s loneliness: sanity,​​ hence why so many of us writers end up sacrificing our own for our readers’ sake.

“Call me​​ arrogant, promiscuous,​​ sexist,​​ reckless,​​ irrational, contradicting, insecure, indecisive, self-loathing, self-loving, or just down right confusing, and​​ at times​​ you’d​​ be absolutely​​ correct​​ because at one time or another I probably was. But in choosing an identity,​​ one must try on all​​ of​​ the​​ available​​ masks​​ life presents them. And while​​ I​​ always​​ try​​ to​​ wear​​ one​​ that is​​ my own, I​​ often​​ find​​ someone​​ wore​​ me​​ better before me.​​ However,​​ it’s always welcomed to know I’m not alone​​ while looking in the mirror, and that I’m always welcomed to break it also. Great philosophy lies in the brilliance of broken mirrors, not​​ in the​​ reflections of them. But still, once you piece​​ broken​​ mirrors​​ back together,​​ mask or not,​​ it’s still​​ only​​ you staring back.”

Walter’s eyes came up from the​​ notebook. The look on​​ Lola’s face was not one of satisfaction or dislike, but confusion. His eyes fled back down.

“It’s horrible!” he cried.​​ “It’s nothing but a clusterfuck of nonsensical narcissism. That’s what you do when something sucks, inject it with ego​​ and​​ lacquer it over with pretentious,​​ meaningless​​ nonsense​​ so​​ nobody can look into​​ it​​ and see the piece of shit it truly is.”

“That’s not true,” Lola said. “Was it​​ a little​​ nonsensical and narcissistic?​​ I suppose.​​ However,​​ it had moments of promise​​ too.​​ But regardless,​​ of course you’re going to feel​​ like a failure​​ in the beginning​​ Walter. Success is nothing but the accumulation​​ of​​ failure.”

“I know,” he said,​​ but it’s been a long time since I’ve been at the beginning​​ of​​ accumulation,​​ and I just wonder if it’s too late​​ for me, or if this​​ is​​ a big mistake.​​ But no matter how hard I try​​ to​​ quit, something​​ keeps​​ telling​​ me​​ writer.

The waterworks began,​​ and Walter’s voice strained somewhere between a whine and scream—a wheam.

“Two-thousand-twelve​​ just wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he wheamed. “This wasn’t how I imagined​​ my silver year going.​​ Twenty-five​​ is supposed to be the prime of my life, but​​ so far,​​ there’s nothing prime, silver or bright about​​ it, only darkness.​​ But​​ I guess I just like​​ being​​ miserable because every time I manage any sort of stability, I have an irresistible urge to​​ take the legs right out from beneath me.​​ Why​​ do I always do that?​​ Why-why-why-why…”​​ 

He then​​ tore​​ his injected and lacquered​​ piece of shit​​ from his notebook​​ and began​​ shredding​​ it in a puerile fit.​​ “Why-why-why-why…”

Lola​​ held back a smile​​ while​​ waiting​​ for​​ his​​ fit​​ to​​ subside.​​ “Because​​ maybe​​ silver years are for silver linings,” she​​ then​​ said.​​ “After all, you haven’t even been twenty-five for a day yet. You don’t know what this year has in store for you.​​ But seriously​​ Walter,​​ you need to​​ stop beating yourself up​​ so much.​​ I think this show will​​ be​​ a​​ healthy​​ distraction​​ for you.”

“Or it could just cause me another breakdown,” he said.

“Yes, but​​ I think it’s more likely going to save you from another one at this point.​​ I can see you’ve been​​ alone with yourself for too long, and like you always said, you’re not very friendly to yourself. But don’t worry,​​ I’m going to do everything in my power to make​​ this as least stressful​​ as​​ possible. Oh, and​​ I​​ completely​​ forgot to tell you​​ the venue.​​ I was keeping​​ it in my back pocket along​​ with​​ another thing​​ in case the fake court papers didn’t work.​​ It’s​​ the last stop of the tour we​​ never made it to.”

“The​​ Berkeley​​ Greek?”​​ he asked.​​ The​​ Berkeley​​ Greek​​ was​​ Walter’s​​ favorite​​ venue.

“Yes sir,” Lola said. “And for bass, this studio guy named Jason​​ agreed​​ to​​ fill in. I think you might​​ know him from​​ some of​​ his previous​​ work, some​​ band called​​ Metallica.”

“No...​​ No​​ you didn’t,” Walter said breathing heavy.

“I did,” she said​​ smiling.

“I’m going to be playing​​ The Greek​​ with Jason Newstead?!”

“You are—that is​​ if you don’t chicken out.”

Unable to contain his joy, Walter​​ stood​​ and began running around​​ the​​ small​​ house, still naked.

“Oh Quarky,” Lola said​​ looking​​ at​​ his cute little butt,​​ “I can’t tell you how happy​​ this​​ makes me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spirituality of Science

colonoscopy

An obviously very doped-up me after my colonoscopy 

By Bradley Stockwell

To spare you of the intimate details, I’ll just say recently I’ve had some ‘digestive issues’. Two weeks ago I had a colonoscopy to check out these issues. Although I realized the possibility that they may be caused by something serious such as cancer, when my doctor presented me with that reality, it dug in a lot more than I thought. Fortunately, it seems this world is stuck with me a little longer for all my biopsies came out okay. However during the five days in which I had to wait to hear these results, I couldn’t help but contemplate my own mortality and what death means to me as an atheist.

For lack of a better label, I am an atheist but I am not spiritual-less. I find a deep sense of sanctity and humility in the scientific observations of nature. To make clear, this post is not intended to degrade or disprove anyone’s religious faith. The world is richly diverse in beliefs, cultures and opinions and I think that’s a necessary and beautiful thing. What I do have a problem with is the contention surrounding the subject of faith and I in no part want to contribute to it. The reason I love physics so much is it seeks to find unity amongst division and I apply that same philosophy in all facets of my life. Simply, I’m presenting how I sleep at night without believing in a god(s) or an afterlife because it is an honest question I’m frequently asked.

The primary source of my peace of mind comes from the laws of thermodynamics which describes how energy behaves. The first law, the conservation of energy, states energy cannot be created nor destroyed. This law was exampled in a previous post, Flight of The Timeless Photon, on how the photon (aka energy) is transformed from hydrogen proton mass into the life-providing sunshine we all know. The energy we consume, and consequently life, is all sourced from the sun. And the sun’s energy is sourced from the matter within the universe and to find out where the universe’s energy is sourced, we would’ve had to been around during The Big Bang. However according to multiverse theorists, it’s a good chance that it may have come from the matter of a previous universe which was chopped up and scrambled by a black hole into energy. Regardless, the point I’m trying to make is energy is immortal. It is the driver of the circle of life not just here on Earth but in the entire universe. As special as you think you are, you are nothing more than a temporary capsule of mass for energy to inhabit. Death is nothing more than a dispersion of this energy and this is what I take consolation in. When I die, all the energy that was me, my personality—my soul, my body even, still remains in this world. I’m not gone; just less ordered. I am a part of what keeps the arrow of time moving forward as the universe naturally moves from a higher state of order towards a lower—the second law of thermodynamics.

The universe is very cyclical. Life and death are just different stopping points on a grand recycling process. Matter, like our bodies, is created and recycled and energy, like our souls, is immortal and transferred. If you’re familiar with Dharmic beliefs, this probably sounds familiar. It’s funny how the world’s oldest religion, Hinduism, seemed to grasp these concepts thousands of years before science did. While I’m not a practicing Hindu, nor do I plan to be, if forced to choose it would be the closest to my belief system due to the many correlations I find between it and science. One correlation I was most awestruck by was the concept of Brahman to the laws of thermodynamics (aka the laws of energy) mentioned above. According to belief, Brahman is the source of all things in the universe including reality and existence. Everything comes from Brahman and everything returns to Brahman. Brahman is uncreated, external, infinite and all-embracing. You could substitute the word energy for Brahman and get a simple understanding of the applications of the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

If you can’t fathom the thought of an afterlife as some form of your current self, I can understand that. Once again I’m not here to convince you differently, I’m just presenting my viewpoint. However in regards to the value of life, I do hope to convince you that there is no deeper appreciation than through the eyes of science. I only stress this to debunk the perpetuated myth that science somehow devalues the beauty of this world by picking it apart. Once again, the reason I love physics is it widens the perspective of my existence through unifying the universe’s many diverse creations and movements. It connects me to the infinitely larger cosmos above yet also to the infinitely smaller universes below. I have an atomic connection to the stars, a chemical connection to the earth, a biological connection to life and a genetic connection to my fellow humans. When you see the world on so many dimensions, I can personally attest that suddenly everything becomes very interesting. Even the things we don’t give much thought to, like sunshine, weather, the way in which water ripples, or why your friend’s beer overflows when you smack the top of it with yours, become regularly appreciated with a new sense of awe and curiosity. The world becomes much more absorbing than anything a smartphone or television can provide and you find yourself wanting to experience everything it can offer. There’s no greater feeling than the intercourse between knowledge and experience. This perspective is perfectly captured by one of my idols, the great physicist Richard Feynman.

 “I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

When I finally do say goodbye to this world, I hope my friends and family will realize this is not actually the case. Everything that was me is still very much a part of this world, just partaking in a different dimension of it. The energy contained within my body will go back into the earth so that it can provide new life to the flora and fauna which kept me alive as I dined on them throughout my own life. Every joule of energy that was me will be released back into this world to live life anew. And will the unique combination of matter the winds of energy deposited as Bradley Stockwell be forgotten? Well I hope I will have done something impactful enough to be remembered by history, but if not, I can always depend on my beloved light particle, the photon, to ensure my existence will mean something. Explained in detail in my previous post, A Crash Course in Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, according to relative velocity time dilation, the photon’s existence is timeless relative to ours because it moves at the speed of light. A funny thing happens to time at the speed of light—it ceases to exist, at least relative to our perception of time. That is of course until I interrupt this so-called photon’s path by absorbing it as heat and become that photon’s entire existence; forever altering the universe. And this is not the only way the photon will preserve my existence. I of course don’t absorb all the photons I come into contact with—some of them bounce off me and are collected in the photon detectors (aka the eyes) of my friends and family members. These photons then create electromagnetically charged webs of neurons, better known as memories. Well until next time, stay curious my friends!